Thursday, September 3, 2009

Email Exchange

The wife of one of the guys I work with (Kathy, wife of Brian) is an avid quilter and has graciously offered her help while I'm stumbling through trying to get this thing done.  She emailed me the following:

Hi Kat,
  I thought I posted a comment to you on your site but I can’t see it so I’m going to send it to you again.  If you did find my comments, then ignore the first part of this message and skip to the part where I respond to your questions (if you’d like!).

  OMG!!  I think your quilt is fantastic!!  I am so impressed with your original design – that was a big step!!  And I think it’s great!  Your Mom is going to be SO impressed!!  I also love the way you are playing with different textures.  I personally love a lot of variety in my quilts and texture is a great way to provide it.  I’m assuming the quilt will be more of a wall hanging so the combo of fleece and cotton won’t be that big a deal.  If it was a bed/lap quilt that would get washed a million times, then the cotton would shrink (that’s why you wash the fabric before you cut – so that it shrinks and gets out any color that may bleed in future washings) and the fleece would not shrink and there would be puckering.  But your Mom can probably figure out how to clean it.  

  I also love the way you are laying out the quilt and playing with color.  I think most quilters would lay out the entire quilt (that is, decide on all colors and shapes) before they sew but that is a personal decision.  The more contrast you have (either using a much darker but same color background versus a completely different color in the background) will make your hand stand out even more.  Outlining the hand with embroidery will also help but, in and of itself, won’t make it as distinct.

  Once you have all (or most of) the pieces cut out, we usually try to sew pieces that go along rows and/or squares (i.e., straight lines of sewing).  For instance, looking at your paper design, on your fingers there are heavier black lines that make up a rectangle.  Try to sew as many straight seams within the rectangle and then sew rectangles together to make rows and then sew entire rows together.  That probably doesn’t make any sense.  I usually have to wave my hands before I make sense.  Anyway, the idea is to avoid non-90 degree angled intersections – they are best done by hand or there’s something called “paper piecing” that would also increase accuracy.

  When I looked at your background, I had trouble coming up with rows.  You can use the techniques I mentions above or you could just modify your shapes so that they fall within  rows and it will be easier to assemble……

Questions I would ask my mother:

1.    Don’t worry about the washing.  As I said, it helps to wash out any extra dye and shrinks the fabric.  Some people cut the raw edges with “pinking (sp?)” shears (you know the zig-zag scissors) so they don’t tangle but I never seem to get around to it.
2.    Quadrilaterals – I think I saw a few in there already, but, if you mean trapezoids specifically (I had to check Bri on my terminology here!), I cut a strip with the correct width and then cut two ends at 45 degrees.  (Most quilting rulers are clear and mark 45 and 30 degrees to make it easier.  You can also get some cardboard (cereal box) and measure the shape onto it, cut it out, and use it as a template.  Don’t forget to add the ¼ inch seam allowance!!)
3.    The flying geese – If you are sewing small squares onto bigger squares at the corners, then, yes, it wastes a lot of fabric.  But that’s how to do it because it’s so hard to work with triangles.  When you cut woven fabric (like cotton), it’s best to cut in the same direction as the threads are going (they are at right angles to each other).  That way the fabric holds its shape for the most part.  When you cut at an angle to those threads, you are cutting on what is called the bias.  The bias is notoriously stretchy.  In quilting, stretchy is bad because things get out of shape easily no longer line up.  So, it’s a tradeoff – wasteful or easier…  If you have to cut on the bias, heavily starch the fabric before cutting to help keep its shape.
4.    For me, picking out fabrics is the hardest part.  There are tons of books and classes on it but the amazing thing is I’ve never really seen a really bad quilt!!  It’s really a matter of taste and, if it looks good to you, go for it.  I’ve always been amazed when I listen to a professional quilter say “I bought this fabric and I just hated it, but, when I put it into this quilt, it gave the quilt just what it needed!”  It takes a lot of experience to get comfortable with color.
5.    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by cutting off corners of triangles before sewing, but, I wouldn’t do it because it may effect how things line up.
6.    I quilt with a (16 inch or something) hoop and my current project and is a queen size quilt.  I like to curl up in a comfortable chair in front of TV.  I’ve seen large frames used but I think it would be hard on my back – but I’m a lot older than you!!  What ever is most comfortable for you.
7.    Lining up corners.  To make life easy, you should press every seam after you’ve sewn it.  Most quilters press the 2 seam allowances to the same side towards the darker fabric.  When you line up 2 seams that should intersect, make sure the seam allowance on one goes to the left and the other to the right.  That reduces bulk but it also guarantees the lining up of the seams because the sewing machine itself will kind of smoosh them together.  If a lot of seams are coming together at one point, you can abandon the pressing of seams to one side and press the seam allowances open as you would in regular sewing.  

Well, that’s about it.  I would be happy to meet with you and wave my hands to make some of these things understandable!  I’ll be starting school on Sept. 1st so lunch wouldn’t work but I could meet you after work or on a weekend.  I think it’s a fabulous project and I know your Mom will LOVE it!!  I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished!!  Good luck!

Kathy O’Toole
(Brian’s wife!!)

I responded:

Kathy –

I love your comments!  The “hand-waving” stuff made me laugh…I know exactly what you mean.   

Let’s see…

The quilt is going to be sized to fit on a full-sized bed, but I suspect she’ll probably just keep it by the couch…the colors don’t really go with their house (they’re much more modern and fashionable than I am lol).  I’ll make sure to warn her about washing it…I’m sure she’ll know what to do though.  She’s good like that. 

As you can see in more recent posts, the hand is blue and the background (I’m calling it the “fill”) is going to be varying shades of green.  The more I look at it, the more it reminds me of a Monet painting…you kind of have to cross your eyes a little to see the picture for what it’s supposed to be.    I’m still debating what to do about those middle two fingers though…they don’t really stand out on their own.  I’m thinking about doing a little heart embroidery pattern just inside of each one, in a metallic blue thread.  Thoughts? 

I’ve been trying to cut out pieces in rows, then do them in chunks that make it easier to sew long strips together…not necessarily straight rows like most would do, but close to that.  There were a couple of exceptions on the hand that made putting them together interesting (see the failed corner attempt), but I think I managed to make it look ok.  Not great, but it works.  I’ll have to remember that next time I try to design something on my own…just because it looks clever on paper doesn’t mean it’ll look good on a quilt.   

The background you were looking at was a preliminary doodle.  I’ve since come up with a more final sketch, and though it doesn’t really lend itself to long lines, it’s better than it was I think. 

1.    Pinking (however you spell it) shears sound like a good idea…I’ll have to try that.
2.    Yeah, it’s always the seam allowance that throws me off on these things. And Brian told me you asked if I knew what a trapezoid was…you’d realize how silly that question is if you knew me (and my family) better lol.  My mom was a math major and I’m in grad school for Applied Math and Statistics MS’s.  Yeah, I know what a trapezoid is.  :-P 
3.    I’ve never even paid attention to which direction the threads were going…I hope that doesn’t come back to bite me. 
4.    I’ve been picking them out based on what patterns/colors catch my eye in the fat quarters section at Joann’s.  I really like that method because it’s given me a whole lot of different patterns of similar colors, for relatively cheap (and I don’t have to bug the poor cutting people by coming up there with 50 different rolls of material!).  the borders I just picked solid colors for.  I love that a solid half of most Joann’s stores are catered almost exclusively to quilters.  I really had no idea I’d enjoy this so much…it’s so soothing, and it’s really like putting a puzzle together (which, if you could see my house, you’d know I LOVE jigsaw puzzles).  I’m hooked!
5.    Yeah, I’ve just cut excess fabric off once I’ve sewn the pieces into place. 
6.    A hoop might work…I kind of like being able to see the whole picture though…I’m not really comfortable with my judgment on these things enough to just focus on one place without being able to see the whole thing (or a bigger part of it).  how do you mark your patterns though?  Like, when you’re going to quilt stuff, how do you mark where you need to stitch?  Do you lay it out before hand?  I vaguely remember my mom using her quilting rack to help her mark stuff…another reason I like the rack better for now. 
7.    I still haven’t tried this.  A lot of my seams seem to be coming together at once (6 or so pieces at one vertex), so it’s been sort of a mashup every time anyways. 

Brian offered to have me come over with my stuff and get your help on this in person…I told him I’d like to get the front finished first, but that after I’m done with that, I’m kind of lost for where to go next.  It’ll probably be a few weeks before I get it all in one piece, but if you don’t mind, I’d definitely like to get your help on it! 

Oh, the other thing…how do I pick batting?  This is a full-sized quilt, intended for her to curl up on the couch under, but she lives in Texas so it doesn’t need to be very thick at all.  I’ve read all kinds of stuff about wool, cotton, polyester, bamboo…but personally, for this kind of project (and my lack of experience), what would you pick? 

Thanks so much for all your help already! 


No comments: